[YORK] Rising Welsh rally star and ProSpeed Rally Scholarship winner Ieuan Rowlands produced the drive of the rally to claim a magnificent 6th overall on yesterday's Red Kite Stages Rally, based in Llandovery. The 26 year old swept his Peugeot 206 Winter Cup rivals aside to claim a crushing two minute and three second victory over second placed Gareth McHale, therefore ensuring that the Welshman has now lifted the Peugeot 206 Winter Cup Championship for 2003/4 with one round to go.
Rowlands was partnered by Kelvin Savage for the second round of the Peugeot series, and the pair were keen to build on their surprise victory on the opening round of the championship in Scotland. The Red Kite Stages would be Rowland's second only event in a front wheel drive car, and the reigning Kumho Clubman Rally Champion was determined to score another good result in the forests near to the Epynt Military Ranges near Sennybridge.
Once again, the ProSpeed Motorsport outfit from York were running a second car for Lancastrian driver Tom Boardman and his Oswestry co-driver Craig Parry. Boardman had recently enjoyed his first ever class win on a rally as a build up to the Red Kite, and was looking forward to the challenges of Welsh forests for the first time. The Peugeot BTCC racer had impressed on the opening round with his speed, and had high hopes for another good showing at the weekend.
At first service on Sunday, it was clear that Rowlands was already setting a pace that no other driver would be able to match. A 30 second lead from the fast starting Boardman was a dream start for the ProSpeed Motorsport team, and after three stages, Rowlands and Boardman still held a comfortable 1-2 from third placed McHale. Rowlands certainly making the most of his prize drive - the result of winning the 2003 ProSpeed Motorsport Rally Scholarship final.
As Ieuan continued to pull away from the field with his impressive stage times, Boardman was to suffer his first retirement on a rally - and a highly unfortunate one at that. A bent steering arm on the third stage didn't look as though it was going to be too much of a problem for the Forton driver. Unfortunately, the steering arm sheared en route to the fourth stage, and Boardman and Parry were forced to retire after a highly promising showing.
Rowlands however was in no mood to ease off and just canter to victory. The impressive Welshman kept the hammer down in the Peugeot 206 XS, and led a host of more powerful four wheel drive cars as he sneaked into the Top 10 overall. Ieuan one of the few drivers to impress the crowds with his ultra committed driving style in the cold, damp and foggy stages.
With just two stages to go, Rowlands led McHale by around one minute and forty seconds. Deciding to keep a strong pace in order to maintain his concentration, Rowlands wowed spectators, competitors and organisers alike as he set third fastest time overall on the penultimate stage of the rally. Another top ten stage time on the final stage left Rowlands and Savage sixth overall, and over two minutes ahead of McHale. Rowlands nearly three seconds a mile faster on the stages than any other Peugeot 206 driver on the event after a fabulous performance.
With one score to be dropped from three rounds in the Peugeot 206 Winter Cup, Rowland's two victories have now assured him of the title of Peugeot 206 Winter Cup Champion. The Ffestiniog driver was delighted with his win:
"Things could not have gone better today. I must thank ProSpeed Motorsport for providing me with such an excellent car once more. I did not have one problem with the car all day, and the Kumho tyres were magnificent in such slippery conditions. Of course we were very disappointed that Tom Boardman retired as it would have been great to claim a 1-2 for the team. Once Tom had gone, we concentrated on getting as far into the Top 10 as we could do, without taking chances or risks, and kept a strong pace all day. Obviously both Kelvin and myself are thrilled about being the Peugeot 206 Winter Cup Champions. Its a fantastic achievement for ourselves and the whole team."
Rowlands and Boardman will team up once again for the final round of the Peugeot 206 Winter Cup on February 14th. The Wyedean Rally, based in Chepstow, is a new event to both drivers and uses the fast and slippery stages in the Forest of Dean. With neither driver having driven on those roads before, it could be anyone's rally on the Winter Cup curtain closer.